<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B> I would say that our concept of “song” is more often connected with extension, Peng, unification of body and Qi, and showing energy; whereas in some other methods, it seems to be more connected with minimizing exertion, avoidance of force, opening up Qi flow, allowing sensitivity, lack of resistance, and softness.
I say, yes, I agree regarding the first clause. And in the second clause: maybe that's so in the other methods, but doesn't our emphasis in the first section naturally lead to all of the things in the second section? Maybe it can't be parsed so neatly as learning one portion may lead to other aspects of "song."</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
This is a difficult subject, because many people use the same words to mean different things. Also, I very much like the Association’s method in preference to the other ones I have studied and am trying to avoid language that might be more evocative, but might be interpreted as overly aggressive. Let me try to clarify.
It is possible that the different approaches to “song” lead to the same result, but for me, they implied quite different ways to practice the form. In the quote paragraph above, I was trying to mention concepts that are interpreted differently and ranked differently, depending upon the approach.
In our approach, I would say that you should rarely try to refine a posture by analyzing how to “minimize exertion.” In fact, I would say that many of our postures require more exertion, rather than less. Some people talk of “efficiency.” Although I find this a valid concept, I find it treacherous, especially for Tai Chi. The question is not how to be efficient, but what to be efficient at. For example, straight-line movement can be defined as more efficient than curved movement, and yet, most of our movement is curved. To take a concrete example, when I perform the Preparation Posture, I use more energy than I would use in “yielding” to gravity or in simply letting my arms dangle and my fingers hang loose.
When I mentioned “avoidance of force,” I meant to refer to the whole dialog about what level of muscular force is okay. I would say that in the Association’s Tai Chi, there is very limited scope for this sort of discussion. Our basic push hands exercises are not built around “effortlessness,” but different principles. I would go further to say that someone who, for instance, is concentrating on using only 8 ounces of force and is practicing basic push hands in our system is almost certainly ignoring more important principles. It is not because the 8-ounce theory is wrong, but because, for us, it should be the result of applying other skills, rather than a useful practice parameter by itself.
For us “opening up Qi flow” is something that happens because we loosen and open up the joints “in place.” It is not something that would ever determine joint angles or limb positions. In other systems, choices are made specifically to try to “increase Qi flow.”
“Allowing sensitivity” is certainly a good thing, but I do not think this is particularly connected with “song” in our system. In fact, I would say that “sensitivity” for us is something that you improve through long training, but it is not something that you should pursue independently before other skills. For example, in other systems, one of the first things stressed in push hands is to practicing sensitivity. In our system, I would say that we simply use sensitivity to stick and follow. The challenge is not so much to increase sensitivity, but to learn how to stick and follow and then to learn the difference between merely touching and sticking.
“Lack of resistance” is important for all versions of Tai Chi I have been exposed to, but I think it is sometimes defined differently and used in different contexts. In some systems, relaxing means “yielding to force.” In our system, being “song” has nothing to do with yielding per se, in fact, “song” is most clearly defined in a static posture, showing a “before” and “after.”
As for being “soft,” I think our system requires a clear distinction between “ruan” (“pillow soft”?) and “rou” (“yielding and resilient”?). We seek the latter, but not the former. In other systems, the distinction is not so important or else is not emphasized.
Let me give a few concrete examples:
In the Preparation Posture, do you let the arms hang loose and leave the shoulders and fingers alone? Or, do you use “energy” and “effort” to extend the shoulders and fingers?
In Press, do you leave the fingers alone, since they do not appear integral to the applicatioin? Or, do you use “effort” to extend the fingers?
In the kicks, do you leave the standing leg as is? Or, do you extend the knee of the standing leg? When you prepare the kicking leg or bring it back in, do you simply leave the ankle alone? Or, do you expend energy to point the toe a little bit?
In forming any posture, do certain stages allow more “relaxation” than others? Or, does “relaxation” feel like something uniform, independent of limb position?
Does “fajin” feel like a temporary “violation” of the injunction to relax? Or, does it feel like a natural outgrowth of loosening and extending the limbs?
During pivots, do you try to minimize the exertion in the ankle and lift the toes as little as possible? Or, do you just try not to keep the ankle stiff and do not pay attention to how high you lift the toes?
[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 10-14-2007).]